Dimona Nuclear Reactor Worker Goes on Hunger Strike

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Israel's Negev Nuclear Research Center, Dimona.Credit: Reuters / Haaretz Archive

An employee of the Dimona nuclear reactor began a hunger strike on Monday to protest his suspension without pay for a year and prohibition from taking another job.

Ehud Ben-Hamou is staging his strike opposite the offices of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission in Tel Aviv, complete with a protest tent and signs. His wife and children were slated to join him yesterday. They plan to remain there until a solution to their problem is found.

According to documents filed in court, Ben-Hamou is currently employed by the department responsible for maintaining the reactor’s mechanical equipment. Labor relations in that department are extremely poor, and several suits relating to the department’s functioning are currently being heard in the Be’er Sheva Labor Court.

Ben-Hamou says his troubled relationship with his employer began several years ago, when he blew the whistle on corruption in the reactor’s payroll department, where he worked at the time. He claims he is now being persecuted for having exposed this corruption. He says he served as a deputy department head for four years, but was then replaced by someone else and transferred to a lower-level job.

Ben-Hamou’s employers, however, contend he is simply a bad worker – lazy, inefficient, frequently late and often absent. They also accuse him of having gotten his family doctor to retroactively produce medical excuses for his prolonged absences. All of this justifies his dismissal, they argue.

Nine months ago Ben-Hamou was subjected to disciplinary proceedings under civil service regulations and received a harsh punishment: a one-year suspension from his job without pay. However, he was also forbidden to accept other work during this period. As a result, he has gone deeply into debt and his family is impoverished.

At the most recent labor court hearing, the judges proposed a compromise under which he would take early retirement for medical reasons. The reactor’s management has not yet responded to this proposal.

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